Shelly Mesure, MS, OTR/L

I recently read an article entitled, “J.Lo’s sense of sexy style.” As Americans, we’re exposed to this type of thing every day. It’s in TV shows and commercials, print material, on the Internet and on billboards on our drive to work. It’s literally everywhere. 

And it really made me think about the nursing home resident’s role with it. I know some residents who still insist on wearing their high heels, dress up for lunch and dinner, and still put a lot of thought into their appearance, regardless of age. Unfortunately, this is a minority of the long-term resident population.

Depression and the impact of the way patients/residents may feel about themselves is a serious problem in our long-term care communities. As an occupational therapist, grooming is a major aspect of activities of daily living but also highly underrated.

The big-ticket items are dressing, bathing and toileting. However, grooming is often overlooked. Whether you’re a physical therapy, occupational therapist, speech-language pathologist, nurse or volunteer, do we pay attention to our residents’ appearance? This extra step may be as simple as asking the resident what outfit she would like to wear for the day. It’s no coincidence that the beauty shop/hair salon is commonly known as the most popular department at any facility.

So, let’s have some fun. Would your facility be willing to hold a beauty or talent contest? You can have many winners, so it doesn’t single out only one resident. For example, best hair, funniest shirt or shoes, most glamorous, most radiant, best smile, and so on.

Taking pride in our appearance gives a sense of purpose. The sense of purpose is greatly lacking in our elderly population (regardless of home or inpatient status).

The core values of all rehabilitation professionals are function and quality of life. What does it truly mean to state, “The resident is functioning at their highest level of potential”? Do we consider the resident’s sense of purpose in our goals and treatment plans? Let’s help them find their “sexy style” and regain their independence and individuality.

Shelly Mesure (“measure”), MS, OTR/L, is the senior vice president of Orchestrall Rehab Solutions and owner of A Mesured Solution Inc., a rehabilitation management consultancy with clients nationwide. A former corporate and program director for major long-term care providers, she is a veteran speaker and writer on therapy and reimbursement issues.